Bada Bing recently bought a skate wing to cook with. "Before cooking, it smelled a bit fishy but in a generic way and not too bad, and not the least hint of ammonia," says Bada Bing. "I battered and pan-fried it, and my son and I dug in. The fish actually didn't taste bad—my son kept eating until I asked him, doesn't this smell 'off'? I took a few close sniffs of the fillet and got an OVERPOWERING blast of ammonia smell." What to do?
The ammonia smell is normal, and nothing was wrong with the skate, says therealdoctorlew. "Ammonia is part of the skate smell. Yet, when made correctly, skate is delicious," says therealdoctorlew. "My go-to recipe is poached skate in brown butter sauce. The poaching is done in an acidulated court bouillon and the brown butter sauce has some vinegar and capers in it. The fish and kitchen are totally without the smell of ammonia when it is prepared this way."
Another dimension: "Skate, like shark, has to be bled and dressed properly, or else the ammonia odor will occur more quickly," says Karl S. "Likely it just was a skate that wasn't handled as properly as it should have been." Zeldog agrees. "It's not preparation, it's freshness. I've cooked fresh (or fresh frozen) skate many times with no special preparation and it was quite delicious," says Zeldog. " When buying unfrozen skate (or shark), always ask them to let you give it a sniff first. If they won't, go someplace else for your fish."
Discuss: Do I dare try skate wing again?